June 14, 2011

Your micro-review roundup: 14 June 2011

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

Intention Implication Wind, by Ken Sparling

Intention Implication Wind
By Ken Sparling
Pedlar Press

This is the latest release by our friends at Canadian small press Pedlar, and unfortunately the first title of theirs that I found myself not so fond of, which can mostly be chalked up to the nature of experimentalism in general; because while the exact perfect amount of abstraction and poetry in a title like this is what makes one of them so great, much like most of the other Pedlar titles I've read, just the tiniest amount more or in the wrong direction can make the whole thing fall apart at the seams. And that's simply the nature of cutting-edge work, why it's called cutting-edge to begin with, and why so relatively few writers even attempt such a style; because not only is there objectively only a tiny window that constitutes a success with experimental stories, but with that window changing locations from one individual reader to the next too, so that one person may love a project for the exact reasons another may intensely dislike it. It's still recommended to adventurous readers in this spirit, in the hopes that all its elements may deeply click with you; but in my particular case, I found Intention Implication Wind to be just a little too scattershot for my tastes, more a case of abstract poetry written in a prose form than a narrative tale written with a poetic sensibility.

Out of 10: 7.4

Our Tragic Universe, by Scarlett Thomas

Our Tragic Universe
By Scarlett Thomas
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

I suppose if I'm being entirely truthful, a big part of why I was so profoundly disappointed with Scarlett Thomas' Our Tragic Universe was not from the quality of the book itself, but simply from a case of mistaken assumptions; namely, based on the whimsical jacket copy and exquisite production details (including a custom-glued full-color glossy hardback cover and pages dyed black at their edges), I had been expecting this to be some smart, well-done New Weird comedy along the lines of China Mieville's Kraken, instead of the ho-hum, cutesy-wootsy, "Sex And The City With a Dark Streak" social-realism chick-lit tale it turned out to be. And while that's not my particular taste, the book is certainly on the high end of the quality scale for what it is, and I suspect will be well-liked by those specifically looking for this type of work; but I just can't help but feel frustrated and disappointed anyway, because of all these details that pointed to one kind of book and a manuscript that actually delivered the opposite. I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover! I know!

Out of 10: 7.1 or 8.1 for fans of dark-tinged chick-lit

City of Ruins, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

City of Ruins
By Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Pyr

Whenever I read a book like Kristine Kathryn Rusch's City of Ruins, the latest release from our pals at Pyr, I can't help but to think of that endless roster of thirty- and fortysomething nerds who have cranked out livings over the last couple of decades as writers on weekend genre television shows, stuff like "Buffy" and "Farscape" and all those "Stargate" spinoffs; because while these writers are known by name by their most passionate fans, and worshipped as much by them as an NPR nerd might worship Jonathan Franzen, it's hard for me in particular to think of such stories as much more than fodder for teens and stoners on a boring Saturday afternoon, making them certainly a legitimate part of the literary industry but projects that will always and forever have only a limited appeal, and will only ever be fully embraced by those willing to pay for their sci-fi trope delivery with a high tolerance for sometimes mediocre writing. The second title in a situation-based space-opera franchise, this posits a sexy rogue space salvager known simply as Boss and her ragtag crew, who in their quest to track down various pieces of highly developed tech scattered across the universe (remnants of an ancient alien race of whom almost nothing is now known) this time stumble across a far-ranging conspiracy on a planet whose population lives in giant half-open caverns, and where the inner-earth walls seem to almost magically destroy and then reshape themselves on a moment's whim. Competently done but with characters that largely come from Action Thriller Central Casting, and dialogue that will leave a lot of people sighing in frustration, it's the very definition of a novel that only a fanboy could love; and while I wish such authors the best of luck, no matter which genre they work in, such middling titles unfortunately fall beyond my usual purview here at CCLaP, which is why they generally get only middling scores despite being well-loved in certain circles. It should be kept in mind before picking up a copy yourself.

Out of 10: 7.4, or 8.4 for fans of weekend sci-fi television series

Filed by Jason Pettus at 1:29 PM, June 14, 2011. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |